Radio Free Europe reports on the growing presence of Uzbek extremist group The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan in Afghan combat zones. The group has reportedly gained a foothold in at least eight different Afghan provinces, where it has established training and logistical operations. The group had previously found refuge in Northern Pakistan after being forced from Afghanistan by international coalition forces and previously from Uzbekistan by Islam Karimov’s government. However, the IMU seems to have benefited from the withdrawal by the majority of coalition forces late last year and the weakening Afghan security situation.
Author Ahmed Rashid has profiled the IMU for years and states in the report that their intentions are to develop a launching pad in Afghanistan from which they could “rebuild their sanctuaries in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.” This seems to be true, at least according to the scale of the IMU’s activities, which consist primarily of violence near the Tajik, Uzbek and Turkmen borders. For instance, much-publicized Taliban attacks on Kunduz appear now to have been joint operations carried out by Taliban and affiliated forces led principally by the IMU. The IMU remains a “coherent organization.”
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- The US Congress’s Office of Congressional Ethics released a report stating that a number of congressmen received gifts and a fully-funded trip to Azerbaijan from Baku’s state-owned energy company SOCAR. The report further states that only one of the lawmakers reported these gifts and kickbacks in their tax disclosure form, alleging that they were unaware of the oil company’s involvement.
- Russia will conduct limited military exercises with Belarus, China, India and Mongolia his year. The announcement was made May 13 by the Kremlin following meetings between Vladimir Putin and senior Russian military brass in Sochi. Counter-terrorism and limited peacekeeping operations will be the focus of the exercises.
- The combined byproduct of rare earth mining in Mongolia has led to the creation of a toxic lake spanning 5.5 miles near the Mongolian industrial city of Baotou, the largest such city in the country. The majority of factories located in Baotou develop minerals that are utilmiately used in wind turbines, magnets, car motors, etc. This is perhaps not a surprise since Baotou contains an estimated 70% of the world’s reserves of rare earth metals.
- Turkmenistan announced the completion of its East-West pipeline. The pipeline will connect main Turkmen gas fields with a transport system key to Turkmenistan’s goal of significantly increasing its export potential in 2015 and according to Turkmen sources can be used to export to Europe, although this is still unclear.
- Well-known Uyghur scholar and activist Ilham Tohti has been repeatedly been denied visits by relatives and immediate family members. Requests made my family members have been rejected, causing them to complain of an inability to provide Tohti with clothing and additional money. The former professor is serving a life sentence for alleged separatism in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang province. The Chinese government has enacted a series of measures restricting ethnic Uyghurs in the country’s West. Most recently, a Chinese university banned the Hijab.